Tag Archives: art

November/December 2018 Art & Museum Exhibits

October 29, 2018 by , and

This calendar was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


SLICE
Through Nov. 4 at Darger HQ, 1804 Vinton St. Erin Foley’s art was inspired by tennis, and Michael Willett creates collages that manipulate Artforum exhibition advertisements into abstract compositions. Admission: free. 402-209-5554.
dargerhq.org

SLICE

Northwest Missouri State Faculty Invitational
Through Nov. 9 at the Weber Fine Arts Gallery, 6505 University Drive S. This exhibit will feature nine faculty members from NWMS, with painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, and installation art. Admission: free. 402-554-2796.
unomaha.edu

Omaha Bug Symposium 2018
Nov. 17 at OutrSpaces, 1258 S. 13th St. The science/art extravaganza features entomology lectures by Dave Crane and Andy Matz, insect-themed live music, insect-infused treats, art and costume contests, and insect-themed art installations. Adult-oriented content. 7p.m.-12:30a.m. Pre-sale tickets: $10. 308-224-4130.
facebook.com/omahabugsymposium

Katie Temple and Todd McCollister
Through Nov. 23 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. This collaborative exhibition examines the cozy nostalgia associated with finding the perfect home and the memories made there. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Katie Temple and Todd McCollister

Joe Pankowski
Through Nov. 30 at Petshop Gallery, 2725 N. 62nd St. This University of Nebraska-Omaha alum brings his sketches-turned paintings, films, gadgets, and more to the local gallery. Hours by appointment. Admission: free. 402-203-5488.
bensonfirstfriday.com/petshop

Marcela Díaz: Contemporary Textiles
Through Dec. 21 at El Museo Latino, 4701 S. 25th St. This exhibit represents the traditional textile fiber art of the Yucatan with works created using natural fibers of cactus and coconut. Admission: $5 adults; $4 college students; $3.50 K-12 students and seniors (ages 55+); free for active military, children under 5, and members. 402-731-1137.
elmuseolatino.org

Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from the Shelburne Museum
Through Jan. 6 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Quilting is an art form that bridged the gap between domestic life and public display. This exhibit showcases 35 quilts that range from complex geometric designs to delicate patterns inspired by nature. Tickets: $10 general public ($5 on Thursdays, 4-8 p.m.); $5 college students; free for Joslyn members and ages 17 and younger. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Richard Mosse
Through Jan. 6 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Conceptual photographer Richard Mosse studies localized conflicts that have broad social, political, and humanitarian implications. He uses surveillance imagery to map landscapes of human displacement. General admission: free. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Richard Mosse

The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West
Through Jan. 6 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Organized in conjunction with the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, the exhibition’s original photographs and stereographs document completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. General admission: free. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Thomas D. Mangelsen: A Life in the Wild
Through Jan. 6 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. The Durham Museum hosts the world premiere of 40 of this acclaimed nature photographer’s works. Admission: $11 adults; $8 seniors (62+); $7 children (3-12); free for children under 3 and members. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Super Sports: Building Strength, Sportsmanship, and Smarts
Through April 14 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. Children can test their skills by throwing footballs and baseballs, take aim on the mini soccer, hockey, and basketball courts, attempt a CrossFit course, practice curling, and bump, set, spike on multi-level volleyball nets. Admission: $13 children and adults; $12 seniors (ages 60+); free for children under 2 and members. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

Frank Daharsh, Dar Vandevoort, and Hope Dendinger
Nov. 2-Dec. 2 at Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. This month-long exhibit features blown-glass works by Daharsh and paintings by Vandevoort and Dendinger. Admission: free. 402-342-9617.
artistscoopomaha.com

Amy Haney: Ascend/Descend
Nov. 2-Dec. 2 at Lied Art Gallery, 2500 California Plaza. Haney investigates the personalities and physical attributes found in various types of bird species in her large format prints. Haney will also display her Birds of Mass Destruction series that has been in progress for several years. Admission: free. 402-280-2509.
creighton.edu

Amy Haney: Ascend/Descend

Local African-Americans Who Served Their Country
Nov. 2-Jan. 26 at Great Plains Black History Museum, 2221 N. 24th St. This exhibit will feature local individuals who have served in the military, including the Tuskegee airmen who called Nebraska home. Admission: free. 402-932-7077.
gpblackhistorymuseum.org

Kristine Allphin and Signe Stuart
Nov. 2-25 at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, 1108 Jackson St. This exhibit showcases paper pieces that are inspired by weaving and the natural order of things. Admission: free. 402-884-0911.
aobfineart.com

Rosana Ybarra
Nov. 2-Dec. 28 at Petshop Gallery, 2725 N. 62nd St. University of Nebraska-Lincoln instructor Ybarra will show her sculpture and other artworks. Hours by appointment. Admission: free. 402-203-
bensonfirstfriday.com/petshop

2018 Union Fellows Exhibit
Nov. 16-Dec. 15 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Artists Chikadibia Ebirim, Dominique Morgan, Pamela Conyers-Hinson, Ashley Laverty, and Barber will showcase their works, which range from painting and sculpture to musical performance and live theater. Admission: free. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org

2018 Union Fellows Exhibit

Holiday Cultural Trees
Nov. 23-Jan. 6 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. This holiday fixture showcases how cultures around the world celebrate the Christmas season. Admission: $11 adults; $8 seniors (62+); $7 children (3-12); free for children under 3 and members. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Santa’s Magic
Nov. 23-Dec. 23 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. This OCM tradition includes an interactive show with indoor snowfall, an elf, the Snow Queen, and of course, Santa Claus. Admission: $13 children and adults; $12 seniors (60+); free for children under 2 and members. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

Bart Vargas: AMALGAMATIONS
Nov. 30-Jan. 25 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. Inspired by pop culture, Vargas’ works stand out as playful and entertaining ceramic figures. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Hot Shops Art Center’s 18th Annual Winter Open House
Dec. 1 & 2 at Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St. Guests can sip refreshments, browse the galleries, and learn how artists create their work in this open house featuring over 80 artists. A non-perishable food donation is encouraged. Saturday noon-8 p.m; Sunday noon-5 p.m. Admission: free. 402-342-6452.
hotshopsartcenter.com

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Event times and details may change.
 Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Life By Design

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In all built things, the real story lies in the space between intention and fruition. The place where design meets application is a point of contact. Across space and time, builder and user enter into a collaboration. 

In the architecture of homes, this moment of connection occurs constantly. In every room, at every minute, the idea of life runs headlong into the actual living of life. If an architect has done their job right, this is, ideally, an amicable collision.

A.J. Vacanti’s home in Omaha’s Regency neighborhood masterfully reflects this communion of design intention and thoughtful, everyday use. Conceived and built by renowned Omaha architect Donald Polsky in the early 1990s, Vacanti’s home embodies a tasteful, modern simplicity. Though the space is, by any measure, a masterpiece of the mid-century modern style, it’s not ostentatious. In fact, when seen only from the street, the house is downright plain—little more than a white windowless rectangle. 

Of course, the real story is found inside. At the heart of any home’s design is an architect’s notion of how best to choreograph the activity of life. “Polsky understood that no one lives in the front of their house,” Vacanti points out. “The impulse is always to move deeper into the sanctuary of the space, thereby allowing oneself to go deeper into one’s consciousness. This aspect is why all the windows here face the backyard instead of the street.”

In fact, many windows in the house are arranged so subtly—in long narrow rows along the ceiling, for example—that it can be surprising to realize the entire space is illuminated only by natural light. 

“The use of artificial light is rare when the natural sunlight filters in,” Vacanti says. 

The home bares many hallmarks of the modernist architectural movement: clean lines, flat roofs, open spaces that blend and breathe into one another. Other elements, though, are more unexpected: moveable walls, dramatic framing, a basement sitting room with the highest ceiling in the house.

However, the most striking detail of Vacanti’s home is the way in which his own creative energy has made a space for itself within Don Polsky’s signature design aesthetic. The elegantly understated architecture makes the space an ideal setting for displaying Vacanti’s ever-growing collection of primarily original art.

While there are a few purchased pieces prominently placed here and there in the home, the majority of the collection, including dozens of paintings, are Vacanti’s own creation. 

Though not an artist by trade, Vacanti’s talent certainly holds its own against the masterwork of Polsky’s design. Drawing direct inspiration from a wide number of artists he admires, Vacanti’s own artistic vision is broadly diverse, yielding a collection that very much seems like it has come from the hands of several different creators.    

“When you walk through the home you’re walking through separate stages of the collection,” Vacanti explains. “Each stage reflects a point in my life. In each painting, I’m working with the material of different moments of experience. There’s a progression. Polsky designed the home to have an art gallery kind of reverence for space. I took Polsky’s linear approach and created a nonlinear reality within the space. I’ve just tried to honor that by expanding on Polsky’s vision through my interpretation of his work.”

 These days, most consumers with the financial means to invest in a custom-built home approach the design process like they would any other service relationship, often dictating their own vision and desires to an architect or builder.  

“Today, homeowners have become so used to telling an architect: This is how we want to live our life,” Vacanti says. “It wasn’t always like that. It used to be that architect stayed true to their own vision. The building itself would say to the owners: This is how you’re going to live.” 

This appreciation for the pure vision of a master architect left to his own devices compelled Vacanti to become something of a collector of Donald Polsky’s Omaha homes. 

“This is my third Polsky,” he adds with pride. Though he’s never owned more than one Polsky-designed home at a time, in the early 2000s Vacanti did find himself moving just one house over, from one Polsky to another, when his neighbors’ house went on the market. 

“I’ve always been interested in modern homes, ever since I was a kid,” he says. “I just like clean lines. Coming from a commercial real estate background in my family, I’ve always been attracted to industrial designs, which you don’t see a lot of in Omaha.”

It’s this sensitivity to the integrity of the designer’s vision that gives every room in the Vacanti home the feeling of thoughtful intention. Every space, it seems, has its purpose.    

“Even though it is open and flows, it’s still compartmentalized,” he says. “You don’t feel like you’re in a gigantic space, wondering what’s happening on the other end of the home.”

Put simply, it’s not over designed. The ongoing conversation between architect and owner—the idea of life and life itself—is richly complementary.  

For Vacanti, his home collecting seems to have come to an end, at least for now. 

“The energy that has been created in this space is magnetic; it draws you in,” he says. “For me to want to leave now would be unrealistic.”


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Causing a Kerfuffle

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ashley Laverty got bit by the acting bug at the tender age of 6, when she performed in her first play. It is fitting that she has dedicated her career to theater for youth.

“I was drawn to [theater] from then on,” Laverty says. “As both a performer and director, I love the ensemble. It’s kind of a cliché, but you’re really a family with your fellow performers and have to trust them so much. As a theater teacher, I love watching my students blossom and I love creating a safe space for them to be who they are and to be weirdos. That’s why I keep doing it.”

When the Worcester, Massachusetts, native took on New York City after college—bent on a Broadway career—she instead kept getting hired to do children’s theater. Laverty decided to let the universe steer her in that direction and sought her MFA in theater for youth at Arizona State University. 

“That’s when I was really introduced to theater for the very young [a movement known by the acronym TVY], which is theater intentionally created for children under age 5,” Laverty says. “Theater for adults doesn’t have to be a certain way, but so often theater for young people has to be overtly educational, didactic, and still isn’t seen as a legitimate art form. But as a theater maker, I’m passionate about creating theater for theater’s sake. Something can be beautiful, exciting, dynamic, and it can also teach you something—because anything good will teach you something. I’m really passionate about legitimizing the field of theater for young audiences by creating beautiful work.

“A 3-year-old deserves to see something high-quality and beautiful, just like a 35-year-old does. You know, seeing a beautiful painting, for example, can make you think about things in ways that you never have before, it doesn’t need to knock you over the head with a lesson.”

Inspired by that passion, Laverty and schoolmates Jeff Sachs and Amanda Pintore founded Kerfuffle, a TVY company where Laverty is the founding artistic director.  

“Kerfuffle’s model is that we work directly with very young people through drama, creative movement, and art to facilitate open-ended drama sessions. With those ideas we create characters and stories with those young people, then we go into rehearsals and create shows in which adults are performing for very young people,” Laverty says.

In 2016, after graduating from ASU, Laverty brought her considerable talents to Omaha when she was hired by The Rose Theater as a teaching artist and director of early childhood. Kerfuffle came along with Laverty, and she and her partners—now located in Chicago and Lawrence, Kansas, respectively—hope to evolve it into a Midwestern theater company.

Kerfuffle’s first show, The Caterpillar’s Footprint, was remounted in 2018 at Lincoln’s Lied Center and Omaha’s OutrSpaces. In addition to the preceding creative workshops, characteristics of Kerfuffle shows include a pre-show experience to ease kids into a production, sensory elements throughout, shorter run times, and a post-show party with snacks aiming to transition kids back out of the experience and foster community among families.

As a 2018 Union for Contemporary Arts Fellow, Laverty has created the latest Kerfuffle production, Nested, which will run Dec. 7-15. She hosted several drama workshops for kids last summer in The Union’s Abundance Garden to help derive the concepts for Nested.

“[When we come up with the concepts] they are acting along the way,” says Laverty. “We’re literally playing pretend in The Union’s garden, coming up with ideas for who lives in the garden and then going into my studio and building this giant nest. It’s 10-feet wide, 4-feet tall, and we’re decorating it with sticks, leaves, yarn, and other materials. The show will take place with the actors in the nest and the audience seated around them in The Union’s gallery.”

Approaching her two-year Omaha anniversary when she spoke with Omaha Magazine, Laverty was feeling adjusted and welcomed. Even with her jampacked schedule she makes a point to make time for herself—hangout time with her cat (Ron Weasley), travel, and improv at The Backline (where she performs with Zip-Zopera, Less Mis, and The Carol Brunettes).

“The Backline is really fun, and it is not kid-friendly. So that’s also kind of nice,” Laverty says. “That way it’s not like my whole life is theater for people under 5. Although I’m deeply passionate about TVY, it’s good to have a balance. At first I just did it for fun, but I feel like improv actually has made me a much better teacher.”

Speaking of improv, and its core philosophy of “yes, and…” Laverty praises Omaha for coming from a place of “yes.”

“What I love about Omaha compared to other places is that people are really willing to say yes here,” Laverty says. “That’s how the OutrSpaces partnership happened. I just reached out to them and said I thought this would be a really great partnership and they were like, ‘Yes.’ And The Union, everything I’ve gone to them with, even stuff they’ve never done, they’re all about making it happen. So, I feel like people say yes here a lot, and that’s really exciting.” 


Kerfuffle’s Nested runs Dec. 7-15 at The Union for Contemporary Art. Visit u-ca.org or kerfuffletvy.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Out of the Blue

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all started with a chair. Then another. And another. Eventually, painter Will Anderson had enough chairs for his first solo show (at Petshop Gallery last year in Omaha). Don’t expect to sit back, relax, and unwind with Anderson’s artwork, though. His furniture frenzy is just for viewing purposes—each chair exists only on canvas in bright cobalt blue hues.

After two years of monochromatic work and painting a number of chairs large enough to rival the collection at Nebraska Furniture Mart, Anderson is looking to expand the idea of what art can be by dipping into new colors and literally breaking boundaries through uncommon canvas making.

“For most of my life, I’ve had a stubborn attachment to painting,” Anderson says. “Recently, I’m cracking open new doors. I’m feeling more confident now, so I notice new things and try ’em out. That old, stubborn strictness is going away.”

At his Hot Shops studio in NoDo, Anderson is beginning to craft the next stage of his career while surrounded by pieces from his previous eras—and a whole lot of flower portraits. Nope, the artistic garden isn’t his own work. It belongs to his mother and grandmother, two fellow artists he shares the space with. 

“I never had a mission to be an artist as a kid, but I was always around and exposed to it,” Anderson says. “Art as a career was certainly normalized for me, but my style doesn’t mirror my family’s.”

After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2008, Anderson says he moved back to Omaha for its convenience and affordability, two things he was looking for in a home as he spent a portion of the last decade figuring out what kind of painter he wanted to be. 

During this decade of self-discovery, he experimented by painting abstract portraits inspired by old Hollywood icons like Ingrid Bergman, pop art-styled Tyrannosaurus rexes harkening back to his love for Jurassic Park, and a blue chair (or more like 200 of them). In that time, his reputation in Omaha has also grown as he has participated in auctions at Bemis Art Center and shown work everywhere from RNG Gallery to Project Project. 

“It’s through the way Will renders his subjects that makes the seemingly familiar actually unfamiliar and forces us to question how much we think we know about the world around us,” says Angie Seykora, a local sculptor who worked with Anderson on a pop-up exhibition last year.

Like many other artists, Anderson holds a side job to help support his career. It was there, owning his own small business as a carpenter, that he may have found inspiration for his next big venture—canvas making. Just like hanging drywall and tiling a bathroom, this part of the painting process allows him to work with his hands while making bigger, more aggressive pieces.  

But these aren’t ordinary, average canvases. Instead, they have been stretched, warped, and contorted in strange shapes to purposely show the effort it takes to make each one. Unlike the monochromatic chair series, the newest work that lives on these canvases is full of color and takes no concrete form. 

“Making a canvas is a private, mechanical necessity to many painters, and I had an interest in exposing that kind of stuff,” Anderson says. “Usually, the privilege of the viewer is you don’t see that toil. Now, I can show that while also having a better relationship with the materials in my hands.”

If do-it-yourself could be personified, it would probably look a lot like Anderson. He’s no muss, no fuss. So when a problem presents itself, like running out of canvas when painting a particular piece, he quickly finds a solution. Just make a smaller one and hang it adjacent as an add-on. The small cubes and rectangles can then be moved here, there, anywhere, and he isn’t confined by space. 

“I had to quit planning ahead, so the add-ons are a reflection of that,” Anderson says. “Even establishing meaning beforehand is crazy to me because then you’re just working towards whatever that chosen symbolism is and all sincerity is lost.”

Visionary? Handyman? Or, just a dude looking to make a name for himself? Anderson proves to be all of the above and more as he attempts to reveal different parts of the artistic process to viewers while completing work in various forms of abstract. Whether he is using wood stain on canvas or grinding up his own batch of cobalt blue paint, Anderson’s use of lowbrow methods to make highbrow more accessible is unmatched in the Omaha community. 

“The way I play is a lot different than anybody else,” Anderson says. “For now, I’m really interested in participating in the dialogue of contemporary art making and experimenting with new ways to do that.” 

Just don’t expect him to create portraits of flowers anytime soon. Sorry, Mom and Grandma. 


Visit willandersonart.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Crow and the Artist

Photography by Sarah Lemke

There is a flock of metaphorical crows hovering over Andy Acker. Crow-related artworks, meanwhile, have taken over the Omaha-born artist’s home studio in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

The 69-year-old Acker creates bizarre sculptures out of carvings and miscellaneous domestic detritus: keys, old coins, nuts, bolts, and other random bits. 

A figurative painter earlier in his art career, he cuts a striking figure himself at just over 6 feet tall, slender, with glistening white hair and beard, a boyish smile, and mesmerizing green eyes. 

Crows are now his figurative obsession. Acker says they started creeping into his work 20 years ago. 

He began crafting sculptural assemblages when he was working at Heartland Scenic Studios in Omaha. At first, they were just fun projects using leftover bits of wood from the carpenters in the studio. But the pieces eventually took on deeper artistic and philosophical significance for the artist.  

“I love to find art in our everydaysurroundings and to show others the beauty in a tree shadow, patterns in broken parking lot surfaces, peeling paint, or our sunsets,” says Acker, who moved to the Milwaukee area with his wife in 2013 to be closer to grandkids. 

He began seriously considering a career in art as a student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the late ’60s. He majored in art, dabbling in various mediums—oil and acrylic painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, etc.  

After graduation, he joined his wife’s family business helping out at the New Tower Hotel in Omaha. Eventually, Acker found his way into teaching art at McMillan Junior High. He taught there for 10 years and adored his students. 

After teaching, he spent the subsequent decade painting large canvas backgrounds and building stage sets for local theaters, museums, commercial clients, and various other venues.

Starting during his time as a junior high school art teacher, Acker would draw cartoon caricatures of departing colleagues as going-away presents. All the co-workers would sign his poster-sized drawings.

“We would zing them with all the things they would say,” he says, explaining how the caricatures would roast the outgoing colleagues with funny quotes written onto the posters. “We had one teacher that would come into the teacher lounge and cuss about kids like a railroad worker. He hung it in his den, and it was popular. I also did that for retiring co-workers at Heartland Scenic Studios.”

Cartooning was another of Acker’s favorite artistic formats before the crows flew into the picture. “I used to always do our Christmas cards as cartoons, but even those have been taken over by the crows,” he says.

His interest in crows began in Omaha. One morning, while driving to McMillan to teach art classes, he heard a crow caw. It seemed to be following him. The bird flew alongside his car through several lights. Finally, it gave one last “caw, caw” and turned into a cemetery nearby the school. 

Acker went about his daily routine. But the crow’s cawing nagged in the back of his mind. He began to notice crows more and study their behavior as well as the historic place that the crow has in history, literature, and art.

A crow is often a symbol of either bad luck or death, but that is not always the case, he says. A crow may be a symbol of life, magic, and mysteries. The prophetic bird also symbolizes intelligence, flexibility, and destiny.

Soon, Acker started to notice crows appearing almost everywhere he journeyed. He began to study crows, and that eventually led to them appearing in his varied mediums of artwork—painted, sculpted, carved, and showcased in mixed-media assemblages.

In his art, the crow offers a reflection on the human condition, a foil for various universal struggles. For example, “Crow Dreaming of Becoming a Man” shows the carved bird riding on a train engine. 

“My future is to continue to experiment with different media and characters from nature to explore human feelings of isolation and wonder, leading to bigger questions relating to our human condition,” Acker says. 

His work last showed in Omaha during a group exhibition, Tinkerbell’s Mausoleum: Assemblages from Whimsy to Macabre, at the historic Florence Mill’s ArtLoft Gallery on July 1-Aug. 31. 


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Chloe Kehm

October 11, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

With her bobbed blond hair, flowered orange dress, and a jean jacket covered in pins (mostly cats in some form or another), artist Chloe Kehm looks like she could have stepped out of one of her favorite anime shows. But while her art may often depict that culture, her interests and influences are far more diverse.

“I listen to podcasts a lot,” Kehm says. “I’ve just been listening to this one podcast and hammering out stuff.” 

Kehm is describing a part of her creative process. One of her favorite podcasts is Saw Bones, a medical history program. “It’s about all the stupid things we’ve done medically in the past…they talk about the Victorians a lot. They did a lot of weird things,” she says with a laugh.

Also, she adds, “If my room’s a mess, I can’t do anything. Which is unfortunate, because I’m not the cleanest person.” Regardless, she manages to get a substantial amount of creating done, including an entire comic book for her BFA program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It’s something she’d been putting off because she says she wasn’t confident in her skills. But after many life-drawing classes, she finally thought, “Let’s just do it now.” 

Having grown up watching animated shows such as Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon, it’s not surprising she became interested in drawing what she calls “fandom things,” such as characters from video games, comics, and television series. But what she really enjoys is making her own, original work, and a big part of that is telling a story. Besides working with digital mediums, watercolor, oil and acrylic paints, and experimenting with ink and marker drawings, she also creates short, four-panel comic strips. “I love writing,” she says. “I took a couple of creative writing classes before and I’m always writing comic strips.”

While pop culture clearly influences a lot of her current work, she does have an appreciation for the classics, such as Van Gogh. Her favorite work of his is “Almond Blossoms.” “His colors are gorgeous and I like to think I could pull some of those into my own work.”

Her pieces are definitely more contemporary, though. “A lot of the artists I really love right now are currently living,” she says with a smile, “and they are young female artists in the comic book industry.” She lists Babs Tarr, Fiona Staples, and Leslie Hung as her top three, but adds that there are countless others. “It’s just really inspiring.”

It’s unsurprising that Kehm admires these artists. She says that, while she didn’t really start considering herself a feminist until college, she has always believed equality is important, “across the board.” She credits those animated shows she grew up on with helping her develop that ideal. “A lot of animated shows directed at young girls [are] showing them in positions of power and being strong and independent. I think that just kind of sat in there…and it inspires a lot of what I want to do with my storytelling and my animation,” she says, before wryly adding, “And I’m a woman. I should care about that stuff, right?”

Kehm says she likes her creations to be fun, but also to have a message. “I like depicting different people in different ways. I like to show the vastness of the human race.” She pauses, then breaks into laughter. “Which sounds…a little lofty.”

She says she believes art in general has a hand in almost everything we do as a society. “You don’t realize how much art plays into everything you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Like your shoes. Someone designed that, someone drew that.” She gestures around the coffee shop as she speaks. “The layout of the building you’re in, the house you live in—an architect did that. They have artistry skills, and I think it gets overlooked a lot. But I think art is pretty integral to everything that we do. Be it political or day-to-day life.” 

While she hopes her message of equality comes through in her work, Kehm says she’ll be happy if it just makes people smile. “That’s ultimately what I want to come out of it.”


etsy.com/shop/KuroesCreations   | instagram.com/kuroedraws

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Encounter. 

Painting New Worlds

September 26, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Can you get to know an artist through their Instagram posts? Scroll through Keegan Baker’s portfolio, and you will flip past years’ worth of fantasy portraits, life drawing sketches, and miniature paintings, eventually coming across side-by-side self-portraits of the current artist versus himself five years ago. 

The man in each portrait peers stoically at the viewer, painter’s apron hung around his neck. But the Keegan on the right looks strikingly realistic, as if he could be sitting across from you discussing his progress in craft and future creative plans. Keegan’s catalog of work is full of surprises spanning a variety of mediums. Upon meeting him in person, he reveals that his most intriguing work has yet to be seen.

Keegan’s current obsession is a created place called Tarmia. This is where he lets his new work live and breathe within a true fantasy world. Keegan says, “It has a really grand story of corruption. I built this mythology around gods and deities. Tarmia is this made-up fictional world where I want real, everyday things to transgress—with a crazy overarching theme going on.” The paintings for this series are based on ordinary things and people that Keegan uses for reference. Then they are immersed in a dark, Hidetaka Miyazaki-inspired world. 

Keegan has been hashing out Tarmia’s storyline—by means of classical architecture research, costuming, symbolism placement, and character studies—for the past year. The logistics behind the art are mapped out in an extensive Google Doc. “Now everything I make is in reference to Tarmia,” Keegan says.

He began his journey on the road to Tarmia while receiving his degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied art. “I was looking at friends and people to use as reference material for bigger compositions,” he says. “I was trying to think about narrative and telling my own story.” 

These depictions of friends riding animals, with added embellishments such as swords and mink furs, show how Keegan got to the imaginary world of Tarmia. “I like the creative challenge of using what’s around.” Family members or friends placed in this fantasy world create a juxtaposition of reality against fiction. The result showcases the artist’s otherworldly homage to manga but also displays his tact for planning and craft.

Recently, Keegan has shown a series of horror-inspired miniature portraits at the 402 Arts Collective in Benson, where he works as a teacher. These dark creatures and faces are presented on tiny canvases between the size of a quarter and a packet of hot sauce. While small, the figures could easily work themselves into the larger scenes of what Tarmia may look like. 

Keegan is interested in utilizing oil paints as well as digital media to create his new world. “It’s hard for me to stick to one thing. I like the broad spectrum of art,” Keegan says. 

Regardless of the style, he pushes himself to continually sharpen his skills, whether in more labor-intensive oil painting or through the “immediate gratification” of rendering a digital sketch. This toil can be seen in Keegan’s blend of polished portraits and character sketches. Through his work as a teacher, he has been inspired to revisit anatomy drawing and perspective study. He says, “It has been the most refreshing thing since college, for just actually vibing ideas off of someone.”

Despite his self-proclaimed “nerdy background” and early obsession with Neon Genesis Evangelion, Keegan reveals a love of classic material. He says he is drawing from classic works such as “Romans during the Decadence” and the portrait paintings of Hans Holbein for a succession of Tarmia paintings. Where these two styles meet is an intriguing, necessary place for Keegan to be. “Telling a story with a single piece is what I’ve been really chasing,” Keegan says. In melding these influences, he hopes to finally capture his quarry.


For more information, visit instagram.com/keeganbakerart.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Encounter. 

Absence Makes the Heart

September 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Where are you from?” 

This common question is a complex one for Los Angeles-based conceptual artist and summer 2018 Bemis artist-in-residence Jenny Yurshansky. She was conceived in Moldova in the late-1970s, when it was part of the USSR; while her refugee parents were en route to the United States, she was unexpectedly born in Rome. The family ultimately settled in the San Fernando Valley in 1979. 

“I was technically stateless when I was born,” says Yurshansky, whose Jewish parents experienced systemic oppression before fleeing Soviet-era Moldova under great duress. In punitive acts by the Soviet regime as it worked to expel hundreds of thousands of Jews, they were forced to abandon their jobs for a year and surrender all educational documentation before leaving. Yurshansky’s surprise, early arrival in Rome caused an additional delay of a few months while her parents worked to assemble the proper paperwork for the family to complete its journey to the U.S.

But Yurshansky’s story is just one small stitch in a larger, intergenerational family fabric of borders, fear, fleeing, and absence. From her grandmother’s escape from the Nazis to her parents’ decision to leave their hostile homeland, the family’s ongoing diaspora deeply affected not just the individuals who had to leave, but the places they left behind.     

“There are two pockets of emptiness: One in the group that leaves—because as traumatic or difficult as their relationship with home may be, it’s still where they formed their identity and the core of who they are—and also in the place that’s left behind,” says Yurshansky of the refugee experience.     

Yurshansky’s past work explores the topic of immigration as it relates to the way we think about human migrants using the allegory of invasive plants species. During her Bemis residency, Yurshansky focused on her Crusted Memory project—a more personal exploration of immigration that looks at her family’s legacy as migrants from a matrilineal perspective. 

“Instead of dealing with migration on a general level like I did with the plants, I’m looking at my own family’s history as being a refugee story,” Yurshansky says. “It’s a case study that can be used to reflect on the refugee experience, not solely on a diaristic level, but also as a way to reflect one story onto other stories and experiences. I’m looking at the state of being a refugee, in terms of traumas experienced by the people who leave and also by the place that’s left behind.” 

As a conceptual artist, Yurshansky uses many mediums. Crusted Memory incorporates textiles, glass, sculpture, photography, and other elements to explore a family legacy she says is rooted with her maternal grandmother. Her grandmother was a highly skilled seamstress whose budding career was interrupted by World War II when, instead of heading to Paris for an apprenticeship as planned, she fled Moldova for Uzbekistan, narrowly escaping with her life. 

Fittingly, it was Yurshansky’s grandmother who taught her how to sew as a child during a visit to the U.S. Yurshansky calls sewing her “initial place of creative output” as an artist. “Since my mother’s mother is the root of the story, a lot of the work [in Crusted Memory] will focus on weaving or embroidery,” says Yurshansky.

In 2016 and again in 2017, Yurshansky and her mother traveled to Chișinău, Moldova’s capital city and her mother’s hometown. 

“Neither of my parents had been back because [it] was too traumatic,” she says. 

On their journeys, Yurshansky collected notes, artifacts, photographs, and conversations which inform the works in Crusted Memory. One piece—an embroidered, soft sculpture—draws from a visit to Yurshansky’s great-grandfather’s overgrown gravesite, where she did a rubbing of the towering headstone that mimics a limbless tree, symbolizing a life cut short. Another poignant piece is based around traditional rose-patterned Moldovan rugs.    

“At the house I grew up in, my mother planted 116 rose bushes,” Yurshansky says. “When we went to Moldova, I saw roses everywhere—from fabric patterns to medians—and something clicked. I said, ‘Mom, now it makes so much sense to me why you planted roses at home and had so many around—you were basically replicating home.’ But she said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. There were no roses there.’ For her, a lot of memory is suppressed, and that’s what I mean about these kinds of gaps, both in the person that leaves and the place that’s left behind. So, I’m recreating this carpet, but with the roses dropped out. A lot of my work deals with absence and plays with that tension of what’s there and what’s not there through how I’m presenting these objects.”

Yurshansky feels fortunate to have the resources provided during her Bemis residency to tackle this important project. “I’m really lucky to have this much room to play in and such an amazing set of resources,” says Yurshansky, who welded at Bemis’ Okada Sculpture & Ceramics Facility and did ceramics at The Union for Contemporary Art in addition to the multifaceted work she completed in her studio. “Being a conceptual artist, I start with the idea first and then find the materials, methods, and techniques that best express that idea, and Bemis is really wonderful because there are so many resources available to me and the people are so helpful. That has been invaluable to my work.”

While Yurshansky had never been to Omaha before, she’d been aware of the Bemis for a long time. 

“I had no idea what to expect from Omaha and I’m very pleasantly surprised,” she says. “There’s a lot going on and it’s really hip. There’s great food, concerts, the culture is awesome, the museums are great, and the people are just amazing.”

In addition to her summer in Omaha, Yurshansky has been exposed to many other locales, having also lived in Sweden for 11 years and traveled widely, which greatly informs her global perspective. Though she acknowledges the heightened current conversation around immigration, she says it’s actually long been a been a major issue.

“It just continues to escalate,” Yurshansky says. “I think that’s a reflection of our world as it becomes more undeniable that the idea of a border is actually an arbitrary thing, considering what a globalized society we are in terms of policy, economics, and how much, especially in the U.S., we have a hand elsewhere in the world.” 

Just as each thread is crucially connected in the tapestry of our globalized world, Yurshansky’s work showcases the poignant interconnectedness of people, places, and empty spaces—the places that made us who we are, those that make us who we will become, and the empty spaces we create along our journeys. 


For more information, visit jennyyurshansky.com.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Encounter. 

September/October 2018 Art & Museum Exhibits

Art & Museum Exhibits

Jevon Woods
Through Sept. 7 at Love’s Jazz & Arts Center 2510 N. 24th St. Woods’ work captures the essence of social and historical figures and explores the intricacies of Afrocentric everyday life. Admission: $10 adults, $7 students and seniors (ages 55+), $5 children ages 6-12, free for children age 5 and under. 402-502-5291.
ljac.org

Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection
Through Sept. 9 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Take a look at 50 masterworks from one of the most private collections of British painting in the U.S. Tickets: $10 general public ($5 4-8 p.m. Thursdays), $5 college students, free for Joslyn members and ages 17 and younger. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism
Through Sept. 15 at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th St. This exhibit examines how Pepe often plays with feminist and craft traditions to counter patriarchal notions of art. Admission: free. 402-341-7130.
bemiscenter.org

Kristine Allphin: Taking Root
Through Sept. 16 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This exhibit celebrates batik, an ancient decorative art used to embellish textiles, and the various forms of beauty found in the natural world. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children ages 6-12, free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Betni Kalk
Through Sept. 21 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. View the works of Kalk, a Creighton University design instructor inspired by the natural world. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Reality
Through Sept. 26 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. This exhibit investigates art, science, and technology that creates, alters, and reflects upon the sense of what’s real. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Museum of Nebraska Art Traveling Exhibition
Sept. 7-Oct. 28 at Gallery 1516, 1516 Leavenworth St. Come see the works of artists from across the state at MONA’s traveling exhibition. MONA was developed in 1976 to create an art collective that celebrates Nebraska’s unique artistic heritage. Admission: free. 402-305-1510.
gallery1516.org

Thomas D. Mangelsen: A Life in the Wild
Sept. 1 through Jan. 6, 2019 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. The Durham Museum hosts the world premiere of 40 of this acclaimed nature photographer’s works. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 2 and members. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Dottie Seymour, Virginia Ocken, Glenda Musilek, and Judy Greff
Sept. 7-30 at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. Discover the paintings by these featured artists, which range from watercolor to acrylic, with subjects from horses to abstract images. Admission: free. 402-342-9617.
artistscoopomaha.com

Watie White and Brent Houzenga
Sept. 7-Oct. 26 at Petshop Gallery, 2725 N. 62nd St. Take part in the notable printmaking and portraiture of White and Houzenga at the gallery in Benson’s Petshop. Admission: free. 402-203-5488.
facebook.com/bensonpetshop

James Bockelman
Sept. 14-Oct. 5 at Project Project, 1818 Vinton St. This exhibit showcases James Bockelman’s modern works. Bockelman is an art professor at Concordia University. Admission: free. 402-680-6737.
projectprojectomaha.com


Sept. 14-Oct. 12 at Lied Art Gallery, 2500 California Plaza. Take in new oil paint and watercolor pieces by Creighton professor Thein. Admission: free. 402-280-2509.
johnthein.com

John Thein, Sept. 14-Oct. 12

Todd McCollister and Katie Temple
Starting Sept. 28-Nov. 23 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. View McCollister’s long-grain furniture and woodwork and Temple’s architecture-inspired art. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Kay Chapman: Wearable Art
Oct. 2-4 at Anderson O’Brien Art, 1108 Jackson St. Chapman uses natural fibers such as silk, cotton, linen, and wool to create clothing that is subtle and bold. See her work and understand the inspirations behind her designs. Admission: free. 402-884-0911.
aobfineart.com

Cindy Mathiason, Elisa Benn, and Courtney Christiansen
Oct. 5 at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. Enjoy artwork by three featured artists during the month of October, with pieces ranging from oil and charcoal portraits to nature photography. Admission: free. 402-342-9617.
artistscoopomaha.com

Northwest Missouri State Faculty Invitational
Oct. 5-Nov. 9 at Osborne Family Gallery in Criss Library, 6401 University Dr. N. Take in the works of a shared art community from Northwest Missouri State University. Admission: free. 402-554-2796.
unomaha.edu

Joe Pankowski
Oct. 5-Nov. 30 at Petshop Gallery, 2725 N. 62nd St. This University of Nebraska-Omaha alum brings his sketches—turned paintings, films, gadgets, and more—to the local gallery. Admission: free. 402-203-5488.
facebook.com/bensonpetshop 

Fall Chrysanthemum Show
Oct. 6-Nov. 16 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Discover a fascinating fabrication of flowers. Bold mums combine with vibrant and diverse colors, textures, and fabrics representative of Japanese culture. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002. 
lauritzengardens.org

Japanese Ambience Festival
Oct. 6-7 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Participate in cultural events and celebrate Omaha’s special relationship with Japan. Hosted by the Omaha Sister Cities Association, the event will include a wide range of activities like Japanese calligraphy, origami, food tastings, martial arts demonstrations, and more. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: Most activities included with regular admission, $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from the Shelburne Museum
Oct. 6 through Jan. 6, 2019, at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. View 35 quilt designs by traditional and contemporary makers inspired by everything from nature to geometric patterns. Tickets: $10 general public, $5 college students, free for Joslyn members and ages 17 and younger. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Sarah Hummel Jones
Starting Oct. 12 at Project Project, 1818 Vinton St. Sarah Hummel Jones is an interdisciplinary artist who works with a variety of materials and teaches students across the nation. Admission: free. 402-680-6737.
projectprojectomaha.com


Starting Oct. 13 at El Museo Latino, 4701 S. 25th St. Celebrate the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead by viewing an exhibit and memorial ofrenda. Admission: $5 general admission, $4 college students with ID, $3.50 students K-12 and senior citizens (55+), free for members, active military with ID, and children under 5. 402-731-1137.
elmuseolatino.org

Benefit Art Auction Exhibition
Oct. 13-26 at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th St. This annual exhibition will feature more than 300 works from local, regional, and national artists. All proceeds will benefit artists and raise funds for Bemis Center programs. 402-341-7130.
bemiscenter.org

Super Sports: Building Strength, Sportsmanship, and Smarts
Starting Oct. 13 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. This special exhibit is a hands-on exploration of sports, with skill-building experiences through play. Admission: $13 children and adults, $12 seniors (age 60+), free for children 2 and younger and members. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org


Event times and details may change.
Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

This calendar was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Ugly Yellow and Violet Vividity

August 8, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all started with a knee injury. In 2006, things for the now-24-year-old Jenna Johnson came to a screeching halt when the soccer enthusiast was subjected to multiple surgeries to repair her ACL. While she healed, the Sioux City, Iowa, native discovered her passion for painting. 

“It was the making of something from nothing that grabbed me,” she explains. 

In 2001, Johnson and her family moved to Elkhorn for a job opportunity. She says that, although she received a quality education and played a multitude of sports, she always felt like something was missing.  

“It was exactly what you’d imagine it to be like,” Johnson says. “I had numerous friends. I felt safe, but in a way I also felt boxed in, possibly due to the lack of diversity.” 

When Johnson graduated from Elkhorn South High School in 2012, the self-taught artist moved east and got a studio at Hot Shops downtown, a goal she’d had since she was a teenager. 

“I participated in a high school show that is held there once a year,” she explains. “During our tour, I’d get lost in the building and imagine what it would be like to be an artist there. Now that I have been a resident for almost six years, Hot Shops has given me much wisdom about the art community. With the knowledge of my fellow artists, I’ve gained the skills necessary to keep my business going.” 

Over the years, those fellow artists have taught her how to build and stretch a canvas, and explain, sell, and critique her work. She’s also learned imperative lessons about success and failure, so it’s not surprising Johnson’s current focus is people, done in an unconventional mustardy yellow and shades of violet.  

She initially chose that shade of yellow because she wanted to make an ugly painting to “get it out of her system.” But once she saw it next to the violet, her imagination exploded. The result was a new experience for her.

“People are my favorite right now,” she says. “I hate painting faces, but I love how the two colors simplify the subject. I am infatuated with these two colored portraits [in particular]. All [of them] are large so it is fun to step up to one and stare into the subject’s soul.”

“Ask me this again in a year, I’m sure it will change,” she adds. 

Although she has other hobbies like traveling, hiking, and yoga, Johnson can’t picture her life without working as an artist. 

“I ask myself this question at least once a week and the answer is always the same—I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe cut hair? It terrifies me to imagine doing anything but painting.”

Johnson’s permanent installations can be found throughout Omaha at businesses such as TD Ameritrade (commissioned while she was still in high school) and LinkedIn. Living paycheck to paycheck, she appreciates each and every time someone buys her work. 

“It feels wonderful,” she says. “Since this is my only job, any sale is a good sale.” 

Down the line, Johnson envisions her art breaking out of the Omaha scene, but she insists, “If I am still happily painting in the future, I have succeeded.” 


Visit jennajart.com for more information about the artist. 

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter.